Five drama recommendations… for your bromance craving
by DB Staff
What’s the only thing that’s as satisfying as a K-drama romance? A bromance, of course. From the Joseon dynasty to police precincts to high school, there’s no drama setting that isn’t ripe for a bromance. It’s nearly impossible to pick our favorites, but here are few that stuck to our hearts.
School 2013 (2013)
No bromance list would ever be complete without the School 2013 pairing of Nam-soon (Lee Jong-seok) and Heung-soo (Kim Woo-bin). Once an inseparable duo of best friends, an awful misunderstanding tore these two boys apart, yet they still found themselves circling back into each other’s orbit years later. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching thing is that the aforementioned misunderstanding arose not from a simple fallout, but from the paralyzing fear that the other person would leave, coupled with the overwhelming desire to make him stay.
All the raw and intense emotions of adolescence are on full display in their earnest promises and tearful ultimatums, but it never veers into theatrics for drama’s sake. Instead, their relationship unfolds in a way that always feels realistic and grounded. Past all the layers of swallowed hurt, mutual pining, bone-deep devotion, crushing guilt, and aching regret — these two boys simply love and miss each other. Having once found solace in each other amidst their bleak and lonely lives, their longing is woven into every step of their reconciliation journey. There’s so much pathos packed into every interaction, making it even more compelling than an actual romance. No one will ever be able to say “dumb bastard” with as much affectionate exasperation and reluctant endearment as these two. Nearly a decade since the show first aired, this pair still holds a very special place in my heart. –@solstices
Moonlight Drawn by Clouds (2016)
There’s just something about best friends who find themselves on opposing sides of a conflict but can’t manage to stop themselves from caring about each other that just gets me right there every single time. This particular friendship involved a former friend trio who ended up entangled in palace politics and pulled in multiple directions – and yet, their bond ran inextricably deep, even if some of them were at times better at hiding it than others. (Okay, one of them was better at hiding it.)
With different factions plotting his downfall at every turn, crown prince Lee Young (Park Bo-gum) desperately needed a core group of people he could trust explicitly to be on his side, with no divided loyalties. But even as he found himself doubting the one person he thought he could always count on, he was also ready to jump headlong into mortal danger to protect his friends – and they were more than ready to do the same in return. Add to that the masterful acting by Park Bo-gum, Kwak Dong-yeon, and Jinyoung, and you’ve got a recipe for a perfectly heart-wrenching bromance. –@mistyisles
The Lonely Shining Goblin (2016)
The bromance between our Goblin (Gong Yoo) and Reaper (Lee Dong-wook) is iconic and spans lifetimes, so it would be remiss to not include them on this list. They start their (present-day) relationship as frenemies and reluctant roommates, but as the show progresses, these two grow fond of each other and eventually become sidekicks, taking out bad guys — and returning home with groceries — in a gloriously back-lit and slow-mo fashion. The appeal of this bromance is 100% in their bickering, though, as they duke it out through magical guerrilla warfare and stab each other with verbal insults. It’s the best kind of bromance, in my opinion.
But as amusing as their present-day antics are, their former past-life connection cannot be ignored, because this drama is also about the two of them reconciling the mistakes that were made in the past and being able to move on from them. Their ending is bittersweet, and their separation feels as gut-wrenching as the romantic pairings. But there’s comfort in knowing that they both continue forward happily, even if it is separately. –@DaebakGrits
Smart Prison Living (2017)
Smart Prison Living (a.k.a. Prison Playbook) is currently my second-most favorite K-drama of all time, so I’m extremely biased when it comes to the bromance between Je-hyuk (Park Hae-soo) and Jun-ho (Jung Kyung-ho). It’s a different kind of bromance than the ones we typically fawn over in K-dramas because it’s more nuanced and devoid of flirtatious bickering. Having bonded over baseball as teenagers, these two eventually went their separate ways as their lives and careers pulled them in different directions, but after Je-hyuk is arrested for attacking the man who tried to sexually assault his sister, Jun-ho becomes his prison guard protector and baseball coach.
Reunited as adults under unusual circumstances, these two demonstrate how some friendships have a certain brand of chemistry that allows them to recapture the magic of their decades old friendship even after spending years apart. Je-hyuk may be a famous baseball pitcher with the intelligence of a gnat, but Jun-ho has remained a loyal friend, fan, and supporter from afar, going the extra mile in order to transfer from one prison to another to protect his baseball chum from the dangers of prison life. Although it may appear as though Jun-ho puts forth more effort in their friendship, the love goes both ways, and it makes me happy that the show concludes with Jun-ho dating Je-hyuk’s sister. I just love imagining the two of them eventually becoming real brothers (in-law).
Life on Mars (2018)
Life on Mars is a classic case of two clashing personalities forced to work together until they become reluctant friends… with a time travel twist. Han Tae-joo (Jung Kyung-ho) is reserved, analytical, and so by-the-books he lets a clear criminal go free because there’s a slight chance the evidence may have been contaminated. Kang Dong-chul (Park Sung-woong) is boisterous, hotheaded, and prefers to manhandle confessions out of people. When Tae-joo gets sent back in time to the ’80s, he has to 1) solve cases without the technology he’s used to; and 2) work with people who operate on a very different code of ethics (not to mention dealing with the getting shot in the head and sent back in time stuff). But, as the two cops learn to function as partners, they drift closer to a happy medium between their two extremes, and it’s as satisfying as it is entertaining. But it’s also poignant, as Tae-joo grows from being a stoic outsider (in both places/times) to being part of a family of colleagues among whom he’s finally able to smile and be himself. –@mistyisles